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Five new scariest moments in non-horror movies

Five new scariest moments in non-horror movies (photo)

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One of my favorite pieces we’ve ever done here on IFC.com was our Halloween 2009 list: “The 25 Scariest Moments in Non-Horror Movies.” It featured great writing from critics like Matt Zoller Seitz, Sam Adams and others, and it was just a great topic. Arguably, the scary scenes in supposedly non-scary movies are more terrifying than the ones in horror movies because they catch us off-guard. You pay for “The Exorcist,” you know what you’re in for. You pay for “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” you think you’re in for an old-fashioned adventure until Nazis’ faces start melting all over the place.

Our original list from 2009 holds up, but in the past two years there have been some new, unforgettably scary moments in non-horror movies. So in honor of Halloween 2011, here is an update. We typically like including YouTube videos in this sort of list, but these are recent movies so they’re not always readily available; we improvised as best we could.

The Furnace Scene
from “Toy Story 3”
Directed by Lee Unkrich

Years after year of mature entertainments have given Pixar the well-deserved reputation as a studio that makes family films for both children and adults, but “Toy Story 3” was so dark it turned adults into children: screaming, crying, begging-for-Mommy-style babies. In one of the most disquieting representations of the inevitable end maybe ever, destiny leads the toys into a giant trash furnace where, with no escape possible, they accept their fate, lock hands, and wait for death. It looks like it’s all over but the melting. Luckily for the toys, things worked out okay thanks to a last minute deus ex machina; unluckily for plenty of people in the audience — myself included — they remained just a wee bit scarred for life. Scariest of all? After all that time at the trash dump, kids start playing with these toys again. Just think of all the germs! Pixar’s going to have to call the next movie in the franchise “Toy Story 4: Contagion 2.” Blech.


Three Serial Killers Walk Into a Car…
from “I Saw the Devil”
Directed by Kim Ji-woon

Technically “I Saw the Devil” is a thriller or a cat-and-mouse chase movie, but it has more scares than a lot of “real” horror movies. It opens like a horror movie too, with a young woman savagely murdered on a deserted road in her broken-down car. But then the woman’s fiancé, a super-badass secret agent, decides to get even with the monster who killed his lover by turning himself into a monster; for the rest of the film, the two battle it out an increasingly gruesome series of encounters. Escaping from one of their fights, Kyung-chul (Choi Min-sik) manages to hitch a ride which, by sheer coincidence, is being driven by a couple more deranged killers. After a brief stand-off, that leads to this terrifying and dizzying scene, as Kyung-chul wildly stabs at the other two guys while the car careens off the road. The real horror here is the blood; not so much the amount of it but the way it seems to be spraying unpredictably in every direction, even on the camera lens, which suggests that the messy frenzy was too much even for the cinematographer to handle. If “I Saw the Devil” isn’t technically a horror movie, scenes like this one prove it is definitively a movie about horror.


“Is This Gonna Be Our Time?”
from “Winter’s Bone”
Directed by Debra Granik

A cop pulls over a man and a young woman in a pickup trick. The man never gets out of the truck, never even turns his head to look at the police officer; he just tightens his grip on the shotgun between his legs and speaks to the cop through the side view mirror. After a few terse, tense words, Teardrop (John Hawkes, in a performance that earned him an Oscar nomination) brings his weapon into view and evenly says “Is this gonna be our time?” The cop backs off. As this scene shows, facing down a man who isn’t afraid of death can be just as scary as facing down death itself.

To watch this scene on YouTube, click here. Below is embedded another scene from “Winter’s Bone” featuring more super-intense acting from John Hawkes.



Home Invasion
From “Martha Marcy May Marlene”
Directed by Sean Durkin

Another amazingly tense scene featuring actor John Hawkes. In this one from the still-in-theaters “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” Hawkes and his cult have invaded a random home when the robbery is interrupted by the homeowner. Hawkes’ Patrick doesn’t want to hurt anyone (or so he says), but he also can’t let anyone know about his group or their crime spree, which creates a dilemma. Hawkes is not a traditionally scary screen presence. He’s not a big, physically imposing dude; as you can see in the scene below, he’s actually shorter than the guy he’s scaring the shit out of. So why does he make this list twice? Because he’s so good at playing characters who never lose their cool, even when they should. There’s something really unsettling about the way Patrick and Teardrop never raise their voice and never gets upset. In other words, it’s not that John Hawkes looks all that intimidating. It’s that John Hawkes never looks intimidated.



The Motel Double Cross
from “Drive”
Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn

Like “I Saw the Devil,” “Drive” is a hybrid, and I swear I’m not saying that to make a cheap car joke (at least not on purpose). It begins as a straight heist movie, becomes a character study, then turns to the crime genre again before exploding — literally exploding — with so much gore that it begins to look like a slasher movie. Again, it’s the unexpectedness of that sudden shift into violence that makes it particularly effective. The most disturbing sequence comes just after Ryan Gosling’s Driver has been double crossed by the guy who hired him to participate in a pawn shop robbery. Just as he realizes the scope of the conspiracy, shotgun wielding goons arrive to finish the job. In the interest of preserving said surprise I’ll leave things there, except to say after watching “Drive” you’ll never look at Christina Hendricks in “Mad Men” the same way again.

You can see brief glimpses of the motel sequence in the red band trailer for the film, embedded below:


What’s your favorite scary moment in a non-horror movie? Tell us in the comments below or write to us on Facebook and Twitter.

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

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Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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